Things You Should Not Feed Your Chickens
A friend told me once, “You can’t poison a chicken.” As experience has taught me, that statement is far from the truth. Chickens raised in captivity may not have the ability to discern “good” food from “bad” food, especially if left to forage outside the pen on occasion. They may encounter plants that have toxic properties, which, if eaten in sufficient quantities, will ultimately kill them.
If you are going to free range your flock, make an inspection of the area first to ensure there are no toxic plants. For an extensive list of toxic plants go to: http://www.poultryhelp.com/toxicplants.html. Following are examples of the wide variety of plant materials you should not allow your chickens to eat: Acacia, Columbine, Prickly Poppy, Milkweed, Locoweed, Agave, Baneberry, Anemone, Bindweed, Birdsfoot Trefoil, Black Locust, Bluebonnet, Buckwheat, Bur Clover, Marsh Marigold, Lobelia, Cassia, Jasmine, Privet, Daffodil, Foxglove, English Ivy, Henbane, Sweet Pea, Lupine, Oleander, Periwinkle, Tansy, Yew, Rhubarb leaves, Arrowgrass leaves, Sweet Potato vines, and Buckeye nuts.
The flock that is kept confined relies on you to always provide quality food. Some people like to feed their flock kitchen and table scraps. Fruit and vegetable trimmings are a great treat for your chickens. Some growers advise against feeding meat or scraps of fat, however, I’ve never had any problems when feeding small amounts of meat scraps, which are a good source of protein. Remember, too much salt is harmful to chickens. Never feed your chickens anything that is moldy or spoiled, including moldy grain. Chickens can contract food poisoning, or botulism, which is usually fatal.
A chicken’s digestive system does not process raw potato peels well. Raw and greenish peels contain solanine, which is toxic to chickens. Cooked potatoes are ok. I have seen warnings about feeding citrus to chickens. However, in ten years, I have never had any problem with this. They will not peck the fruit open however, so you will need to chop it in half before feeding.
Do not feed peaches to laying hens, as this will cause them to stop laying. Do not feed dried beans to your flock – they contain hemaglutin (removed by cooking), which is toxic to birds. The pit and skin of avocados are reported to have a low level of toxicity.
Although almost everyone thinks it’s fun to feed pieces of stale bread to chickens, ducks and geese, only do this sparingly for your flock. Starch breaks down into sugar, which will make your birds nervous and possibly aggressive toward each other. That manifests into feather picking in your flock. Likewise, avoid sugared cereals, candy and chocolate. Chocolate also contains caffeine, and can be poisonous to most pets.
Do not feed cat food to your chickens. It contains an amino acid that can be fatal to poultry in excess amounts. If you feed your chickens flowers, make sure they haven’t been treated with pesticides.
Although it might seem weird, you can feed cooked eggs to your chickens. But don’t feed them raw eggs, because you don’t want them to acquire a taste for them. A couple egg-eaters can cost you over a dozen eggs a week. If an egg gets broken in a laying box, remove it immediately so your hens don’t learn to eat eggs. If it’s too late, block off the box for a week or so, clean it out thoroughly and replace the bedding.
Chickens are curious, and they will peck at foreign objects in their environment. Keep Styrofoam and fiberglass insulation out of the reach of chickens, and keep their pen and run free of potentially harmful debris.
Your chickens rely on you for a healthy diet, and they will reward you for the care you take in selecting the right foods for them.